Nearly half of Letcher County residents now have access to potable water, Bell Engineering’s Steve Caudill told the Letcher Fiscal Court this week.
Caudill said during the court’s October meeting Monday that in 2006, 19 percent of Letcher County residents had access to potable water and the majority of those were in Jenkins, Whitesburg, Blackey and Fleming-Neon. He said that in the last four years the Letcher County Water and Sewer District has added water lines at the rate of 500 feet per week every working week and averaged four to five water line projects per year.
Caudill told the court that if they are able to maintain water line construction at this pace, about 60 percent of Letcher County residents will have potable water when the current cycle of construction and planned construction is complete. This will include projects in Pert Creek, Pine Creek, Carcassonne, Deane, Loggy Hollow, and Thornton. Caudill also said the amount of funding the county is getting from Abandoned Mine Lands is among the highest in the state.
“You can all be proud of yourselves,” said Caudill. “A lot of people now have potable water who didn’t have it in 2006. Letcher County is getting a lot of AML money too, as much as one-third of the total pot next year. They have heard your voices and they know of your need.”
Judge/Executive Jim Ward said that Caudill was with them on every trip he and members of the court took to Frankfort to seek funding for water projects or to make the case for line extensions. Ward said he felt that Letcher County was now getting its fair share of state funding. Second District Magistrate Archie Banks agreed and added that as soon as water lines are in place throughout the county, it will be time to give residents access to sewer lines as well. Caudill said that although the Kentucky Public Service Commis- sion does not keep statistics on how counties compare with each other in laying new pipeline, he was told that Letcher County is either at the top or very close to the top in terms of growth.
The court also heard a report from Codell Construction Site Manager Rusty Evans, who said everything is on schedule for the county recreation center. Evans said the masonry work is about 85 percent complete and is partly up to the second floor. He added that electrical and plumbing work is being done as masonry is done and said everything is being completed on the day it is supposed to be finished.
Evans also told the court that Project Manager Travis Curry had completed his review of proposals for the climbing wall and bowling lanes. He said Curry recommended accepting the bids of Eldorado Climbing Walls and Brunswick Bowling and the court unanimously approved each vendor. The court also voted to purchase up to four additional apparatus which secure climbers and prevent falls.
In other business, County Surveyor Richard Hall presented the court with a completed survey of Morgan Lane and it was adopted into the county road system. Hall also said the Kentucky Department of Highways has approved the Crase’s Branch work but added that the state wants only one way in and one way out. Judge Ward said he would speak to the highway department and ask for clarification. Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming asked that Hall conduct speed limit surveys on every road in McRoberts without speed limits, and the court requested surveys for Dove Lane and Church Hill.
Letcher County Tourism Chairman David Narramore presented the tourism report for the month and extended thanks to everyone who made the Mountain Heritage Festival a success. Narramore said he especially appreciated all the bands who marched in the parade and the cannon fire from the Ben Caudill Camp #1629 (Confederate Civil War reenactors) and the 21 gun salute arranged by Darrell Holbrook, Secretary of the Letcher County Veteran’s Museum. Narramore praised the Mountain Heritage Festival Committee Parade Chairperson Tricia Lewis, Committee Chairperson LeAnna Mullins, and the entire committee for doing everything from “picking up garbage to helping Mike Caudill make moonshine.”
Narramore told the court that next year’s festival will offer each participating band $200.00 and a $1,000 prize for first place, $750 for second, $500 for third and $250 for fourth place. He also reported that over 1,000 people attended the Indian Summer Days celebration at the Little Shepherd Amphitheater in Jenkins and over 500 people were in Whitesburg October 16 for Artwalk, which featured the unveiling of Kentucky Heritage Artist Doug Adams’ sculpture commemorating Letcher County history. Narramore asked that everyone with a tourism related event to turn their information in to the Letcher County Tourism Commission so they can be placed on the 2011 Master Calendar of events.
Jim Scott reported on Blighted and Deteriorated Property removal activity. Scott said the committee has 28 letters which have been signed by property owners giving the county permission to remove blighted structures. He said the committee had sent out about 40 letters in all. Judge Ward said he has a meeting scheduled with representatives of EQT about their help in taking the structures down and added that he would call Premier Elkhorn Coal (TECO) as well. Ward said that several houses pose a danger and need to be taken down quickly and asked that the old Doc Wright offices in Whitaker be one of the first.
Scott, who also chairs the McRoberts Improvement Committee, said work is scheduled to restore the Green in McRoberts to its pre-WWII beauty and the committee will place a gazebo on it. He added that street lights will be installed around the Green as well. Magistrate Banks said the county has a good deal of building material that will have to be disposed of if no one is interested in taking it. Banks said they have a lot of cut stone, crafted by Italian stone masons in the early part of the 20th Century as well as rare handmade bricks.
In other court business: • County Treasurer Phillip Hampton conducted the first reading of Budget Amendment 8, which will add $253,638.95 to the county LGEA fund from the USDA and coal severance taxes and the second reading of Budget Amendments 6 and 7. Budget Amendment 6 adds $105,536.45 to the General Fund from coal severance tax funds and Budget Amendment 7 adds $198,573.78 to the Road and Bridge Fund from the Transportation Cabinet. Hampton also praised the court for fiscal responsibility, saying that for the second year in a row, the county hasn’t had to transfer (borrow) money from the General Fund to pay for insurance.
• Magistrate Fleming asked Hampton where the money taken from Letcher County telephone customers bills for E-911 services goes. Fleming said his sonin law was killed in an accident recently and a woman made more than 20 calls to 911 and got no reply. Judge Ward said there is no excuse for that kind of poor service and Fleming said, “I think we should think about not sending it in until they do their job.”
• The court approved extending $1,499.76 to the Letcher County Sherriff ’s Office to purchase new computers and software for taxes until a grant comes through and they will be repaid.